How should sane people answer this loaded question, particularly when asked in talk show interviews and presidential or vice-presidential debates? Thanks for asking:
Do not allow yourself to be talked over when you answer this question.
"The outrageous fallacy of calling this a success any more than calling our first few weeks a 'mission accomplished' is that we will never know how many lives would have been saved or more successful results obtained with a plan based on making the Iraqis responsible much earlier.
Do you think the word success is used by the families of the 1000 (get the exact number since Feb 07?) American soldiers killed since the surge began?
Do you think it's success to the countless thousands of American businessmen and women, policemen, firefighters, and just plain moms and dads who are in their fifth tour of Iraq duty in the US Reserves?
Is it success to the Iraqi people whose cities are in shreds?
Are we supposed to be so gullible that we believe in this success in the same way as "mission accomplished?"
Will it be a success the minute we withdraw, or only after the Iraqis themselves sort it out no matter how long we're there?
When you finally do something you should have done 6 years ago, is that what you call success?
Is it successful enough that you'd want to visit Iraq?
If you call all those things success, then this administration has succeeded in lowering the bar like never before."
If you reword the last line, make sure you think about possible retorts. Do not include the word "failure." The tiresome retort---suggesting that failure would mean nuclear annihilation at the hands of terrorists---should focus on the fact that that threat was escalated, not diminished, by the war.